x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Indonesia bans UAE ‘trafficking agencies’

Indonesian Embassy in Abu Dhabi has barred about 10 agencies for continually bringing in housemaids to the UAE before shipping them off to other countries against their will.

The embassy has informed the Indonesian government in Jakarta and documents from the concerned companies will no longer be authenticated, ambassador Salman Al Farisi confirmed. Delores Johnson / The National
The embassy has informed the Indonesian government in Jakarta and documents from the concerned companies will no longer be authenticated, ambassador Salman Al Farisi confirmed. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // Indonesia has blacklisted a number of UAE recruitment agencies for human trafficking housemaids to Arab countries against their will.

The Indonesian Embassy in Abu Dhabi has barred dealings with about 10 agencies for continually bringing in housemaids to the UAE before shipping them off to other countries for profit.

The embassy has informed the Indonesian government in Jakarta and documents from the concerned companies will no longer be authenticated, ambassador Salman Al Farisi confirmed. A number of recruitment agencies based in Indonesia have also been blacklisted.

The ambassador said the workers are generally sent on to Arab countries that are banned from recruiting Indonesian maids or sent to countries where bringing maids directly from Indonesia is a costly and troublesome affair.

The embassy has informed the UAE National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking though the ambassador would not reveal what agencies are involved.

Vishno Suryo, who is in charge of political and counsellor affairs at the embassy, said that some unscrupulous recruitment agencies view the UAE as an easy country to transit maids through.

“To come to the UAE is easier compared to other GCC countries and it’s also very easy to move around to other countries from here,” he said.

“We found that it’s true that the agencies are involved in trafficking and it’s going to happen more and more if it is not stopped.”
Ambassador Al Farisi added: “I believe this country takes good measures to stop trafficking, so we do that as well.

“Some recruitment agencies in the UAE have been blacklisted and cannot continue their services until they resolve the issue.

“We don’t have the exact number of such cases [trafficked people] but we know when the issue happens. We are quite sure that we have to address that.

“And we have to get an assurance from the UAE Government to take measures together in addressing this issue.”

Last year, the UAE Government referred 47 cases involving 149 sex-trafficking suspects to prosecutors. Ninety-one were convicted, with sentences ranging from one year to life imprisonment.

The UAE in June also pledged US$50,000 (Dh184,000) in aid to the United Nations to support efforts to combat human trafficking. This brings the total the UAE has donated to $150,000.

Mr Suryo said Indonesia stopped sending housemaids to Saudi Arabia almost two years ago, as well as some other Arab countries he did not want to mention, despite demand for these workers in the GCC being high.

Tensions between Indonesia and Saudi heightened after the Gulf country beheaded a maid in June 2011 without informing Jakarta after she confessed to murdering her boss.

Mr Suryo said agencies that traffick workers around the GCC are making a minimum of $1,000 per maid.

He said the International Labour Organisation (ILO) considers forging documents and promising work in a certain country and then sending people to another as trafficking.

The ILO estimates that 600,000 migrant workers worldwide – and 3.4 in every 1,000 people working in the Middle East – have to work against their will.

Though other regions, including Central and Southeastern Europe, experience greater rates of forced labour, the Arab region’s vast scale of migration, in conjunction with sometimes exploitative sponsorships, fosters forced labour situations, the ILO said.

Rima Kalush, a programme coordinator at Migrant Rights, which supports migrant workers in the Middle East and North Africa, said preventing and punishing trafficking requires coordination between sending, transit and destination states. This especially includes the regulation of recruitment agencies, she said.

“Domestic workers lodged 10,000 complaints against Kuwaiti employers in 2010 and some 213 Kuwaiti companies were charged with trafficking in the first four months of 2013,” she added.

anwar@thenational.ae